During the 2019 NBA Draft, Talen Horton-Tucker had to wait a loooong time to hear his name. 26 of the 30 teams in the NBA at least ostensibly had an opportunity to draft him — some of them, such as the Boston Celtics, multiple times — before he heard his name called by the Orlando Magic at the 46th pick in the 60-pick, two-round draft. The Magic then became the 27th team to pass on Horton-Tucker, trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for $2.2 million in cash and a 2020 second-round pick on draft night.
In the end, only the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and LA Clippers did not pass on a chance to draft Horton-Tucker, and realistically, for the price the Lakers paid, any of them probably could have had him if they felt strongly about his potential.
It didn’t take long before Horton-Tucker made the Lakers feel pretty comfortable with their decision, and it only took around one season longer before the majority of the rest of the league was probably starting to wonder if they made a mistake by not picking him.
And while Horton-Tucker was lighting up the Utah Jazz for a career-high 24 points — albeit in a loss — on Tuesday night as he continues his second-half breakout, Tony Jones of The Athletic reported that the Jazz had been hoping to nab Horton-Tucker in the draft two years ago. Unfortunately for them, the Lakers snagged him too quickly.
THT is really good. The Jazz were hoping he would fall to them a few years ago— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) April 20, 2021
The Jazz did in theory actually have a chance to draft Horton-Tucker, but had already traded their first-round pick in a deal for Mike Conley, so they were selecting for the Oklahoma City Thunder (who got the pick from the Memphis Grizzlies). Given that Conley was a replacement All-Star this year and has helped Utah assemble the best record in the Western Conference, they probably don’t regret that deal.
But the Jazz didn’t have another pick that night until No. 53, and the Lakers swooped in to grab Horton-Tucker seven spots before. Again, for the price the Lakers paid, if Utah really believed Horton-Tucker was going to be this good, their front office probably could have just traded a token future asset and cash to get him. But they didn’t, and their lack of faith is the Lakers’ gain.
In the end, all this really means is that you can bet that we are going to get our jokes off about this rumor if Horton-Tucker makes any impact at all in a potential Lakers-Jazz playoff series now that the Jazz have pulled a Danny Ainge and leaked they were this close to a promising prospect. And if anything, considering they have Sixth Man of the Year frontrunner and 2014 46th overall pick Jordan Clarkson on their roster, the Jazz and the NBA will at least probably learn a lesson from all this: If the vaunted Lakers scouting department is trying to buy a 46th overall pick in the draft, that’s the player you want to pick.